Skip to main content Start of content
Table of ContentsIndexPrint Format
Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter I — Presiding Officers

Elections and Appointments (Standing Orders [ 233.145678 ])
Order and Decorum (Standing Orders [ 91011121314 ])


When the Members assemble at the beginning of a Parliament, the first order of business is the election of the Speaker by secret ballot. Subsequently, the other presiding officers are chosen. The Speaker and the Chair of Committees of the Whole (who is also Deputy Speaker) are elected for the duration of a Parliament. The Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole (who from time to time serve as Acting Speaker) are appointed on a sessional basis. Together, these four individuals preside over the sittings of the House, enforcing the rules to preserve order and decorum and to conduct the business of the House.

Elections and Appointments

Standing Order 2
First order of business.
At the opening of the first session of a Parliament, and at any other time as determined pursuant to section (2) of this Standing Order, the election of a Speaker shall be the first order of business and shall not be interrupted by any other proceeding.
Vacancy in Office of Speaker.
When there is, or is to be, a vacancy in the Office of the Speaker, whether at the opening of a Parliament, or because the incumbent of that Office has indicated his or her intention to resign the Office of Speaker, or for any other reason, the Members, when they are ready, shall proceed to the election of a Speaker.
Precedence over all other business. Adjournment of the House.
The election of a Speaker shall take precedence over all other business and no motion for adjournment nor any other motion shall be accepted while it is proceeding and the House shall continue to sit, if necessary, beyond its ordinary hour of daily adjournment, notwithstanding any other Standing or Special Order, until a Speaker is declared elected, and is installed in the Chair in the usual manner, provided that if the House has continued to sit beyond its ordinary hour of daily adjournment, the Speaker shall thereupon adjourn the House until the next sitting day.

Commentary — Standing Order 2

This Standing Order, the first two sections of which are based on sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution Act, 1867, indicates precisely when and under what circumstances the election of a Speaker shall take place. [1] At the beginning of the first session of a Parliament, because the House is without a Speaker, an election occurs at that time. Should the Speaker resign or state his or her intention to resign in mid-Parliament, election proceedings again take place. A vacancy occurring for any other reason also leads to the election of a new Speaker. In each case, the election takes precedence over all other business and, if necessary, continues beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment until a Speaker is elected.

Standing Order 3
Member presiding during election.
During an election of a Speaker the Chair shall be taken by:
at the opening of a Parliament, the Member who has had the longest period of unbroken service as determined by reference to his or her position on the list published in the Canada Gazette, and who is neither a Minister of the Crown, nor holds any office within the House including that of leader of a party; or,
in the case of the Speaker having indicated his or her intention to resign that Office, the Speaker; and
at other times, in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole as provided by Statute.
Powers and vote of Member presiding during election.
The Member presiding during the election of a Speaker shall be vested with all the powers of the Chair provided that he or she:
shall be entitled to vote in the election of a Speaker; and
shall have no casting vote in the event of there being an equality of votes cast for two candidates.

Commentary — Standing Order 3

When the election of a Speaker occurs at the beginning of a Parliament, the most senior Member in terms of continuous service presides, provided he or she is neither a Minister, nor holds any office within the House. Length of service is determined by reference to the Canada Gazette, which publishes the names of Members elected in the order in which returns are received by the Chief Electoral Officer. When the Speaker has stated his or her intention to resign, the Speaker presides. In other cases owing to the Speaker’s absence, the Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole presides, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act. [2] The Member presiding is vested with all the powers of the Chair and is entitled to cast a ballot in the election, but may not cast an additional ballot in the case of a tie.

Standing Order 3.1
Candidates for Speakership may address House prior to election.
Before proceeding with the election of a Speaker pursuant to Standing Order 4, the Member presiding shall call upon any candidate for the office of Speaker to address the House for not more than five minutes; when no further candidate rises to speak, the Member presiding shall leave the Chair for one hour after which Members shall proceed to the election of a Speaker.

Commentary — Standing Order 3.1

Members wishing to let their name stand for Speaker may address the House before the election begins. This Standing Order allows each candidate to make a brief speech of no more than five minutes. After all the candidates wishing to speak have done so, the House is suspended for one hour before the first ballot commences.

Standing Orders 4 and 5
Balloting procedure.
The election of a Speaker shall be conducted by secret ballot as follows:
Notification to Clerk when Member does not wish to be considered for election. List of names to be provided to Member presiding during election.
Any Member who does not wish to be considered for election to the Office of Speaker shall, not later than 6.00 p.m. on the day preceding the day on which the election of a Speaker is expected to take place, in writing, so inform the Clerk of the House who shall prepare a list of such Members’ names together with a list of the names of all Ministers of the Crown and party leaders, and shall provide the same to the Member presiding prior to the taking of the first ballot.
Ballot papers.
Members present in the Chamber shall be provided with ballot papers by the Clerk of the House.
Announcement of availability of list.
The Member presiding shall announce from the Chair that the list provided pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order is available for consultation at the Table.
Choice indicated on ballot paper.
Members wishing to indicate their choice for the Office of Speaker shall print the first and last name of a Member on the ballot paper.
Ballot paper deposited in box.
Members shall deposit their completed ballot papers in a box provided for that purpose on the Table.
Counting and destruction of ballot papers.
The Clerk of the House shall, once all Members wishing to do so have deposited their ballot papers, empty the box and count the ballots and being satisfied as to the accuracy of the count, shall destroy the ballots together with all records of the number of ballots cast for each candidate and the Clerk of the House shall in no way divulge the number of ballots cast for any candidate.
Announcement of successful candidate.
In the event of one Member having received a majority of the votes cast, the Clerk of the House shall provide the Member presiding with the name of that Member, whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the name of the new Speaker.
When no majority of votes.
In the event of no Member having received a majority of the votes cast the procedure shall be as follows:
Clerk to provide Member presiding during election with alphabetical list of candidates.
the Clerk of the House shall provide the Member presiding the names of the candidates for the next ballot, in alphabetical order, provided that the Clerk of the House shall first determine the number representing the least total number of votes cast and the Clerk shall exclude the names of all Members having received that total number of votes, together with the names of all Members having received five percent or less of the total votes cast, from the list of candidates so provided, and provided that in the event of every candidate receiving the same number of votes no names shall be excluded from the list so provided; and
Announcement of candidates. Reasons for not accepting further consideration to be stated.
whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the names of the candidates, which shall be the only names thereafter accepted, in alphabetical order, provided that prior to the taking of the second ballot, he or she shall ask that any Member, whose name has been so announced and who does not wish to be further considered for election to the Office of Speaker, state his or her reason therefor.
Subsequent ballots.
Subsequent ballots shall be conducted in the manner prescribed in sections (4) through (8) of this Standing Order except that following the second and all subsequent ballots the Member presiding shall not ask the candidates to state their reasons for not wishing to be further considered for election to the Office of Speaker but shall forthwith proceed to the taking of that subsequent ballot and the balloting shall continue, in like manner, until such time as a new Speaker is elected.
No debate or questions of privilege allowed.
During the election of a Speaker there shall be no debate and the Member presiding shall not be permitted to entertain any question of privilege.
Ministers of the Crown and party leaders not eligible.
No Minister of the Crown, nor party leader, shall be eligible for election to the Office of Speaker.

Commentary — Standing Orders 4 and 5

The election of a Speaker takes place by secret ballot without any declared nominations. Members present in the Chamber print the name of the candidate of their choice on a special ballot paper given them by the Clerk, then deposit it in a ballot box at the Table. The Clerk counts the votes in secret, destroys the ballots and provides the Member presiding with only the name of the Member who has received the majority of the votes cast. If no one Member has obtained a majority of the votes cast, the names of the last-place candidate (or candidates, in case of a tie vote for last place) and the names of any Members having received five percent or less of the votes cast, are dropped from the list. The names remaining on the alphabetically arranged list are announced to the House by the Member presiding before balloting begins again. At this point, any Members on the list who wish not to be further considered may rise and so state, whereupon their names are deleted as well. A subsequent ballot then takes place. This process is repeated until a candidate has received the necessary majority of votes cast, or until only one name remains. The name of this Member is then announced to the House as that of the new Speaker.

Before the first ballot, Members have an opportunity to consult a list of names of Members who are ineligible (party leaders and Cabinet Ministers), or who do not want to be considered for election and have so advised the Clerk in writing. Before the second ballot, as noted previously, Members who have received votes but who do not wish to be further considered may withdraw from the election, stating their reasons for withdrawal if they so choose. Those who withdraw after the second ballot do not state reasons.

Standing Order 6
Not a question of confidence.
The election of a Speaker shall not be considered to be a question of confidence in the government.

Commentary — Standing Order 6

The Speaker is elected by individual Members of Parliament to serve the House. It therefore follows that his or her election is not in any way related to the confidence the House has in the government and is not to be considered in that light.

Historical Summary — Standing Orders 2, 3, 3.1, 4, 5 and 6

Although the time at which a Speaker is to be elected is described in the Constitution, no Standing Order of the House ever indicated by what means this should be accomplished until 1985, when these Standing Orders were first adopted. From 1867 to 1985 the Clerk of the House conducted the election. The general practice was for the Prime Minister to propose the name of a Member for the Speakership. This debatable motion was usually seconded by a leading Minister, although starting in 1953, the honour typically went to the Leader of the Opposition. [3] After debate on the motion, the question was put by the Clerk, and the Member was elected by a majority of the Members present; in almost all cases the motion was carried unanimously. The Speaker-elect, showing mock reticence, was then escorted to the Chair by the mover and seconder, after which he or she accepted the nomination and the Mace was placed on the Table. No more than one name was ever proposed at any election, although there was, on occasion, opposition to the name put forward. [4]

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, a number of initiatives were taken in an attempt to make the Speakership independent of partisan politics: Speaker Lamoureux resigned from the Liberal Party and ran and won as an independent in the general elections of 1968 and 1972; [5] in 1971 a long-standing Member of Parliament, Stanley Knowles, brought forward a private Member’s bill which would have made Parliament Hill the Speaker’s constituency; [6] and in the 1979 minority Parliament, the Prime Minister re-nominated James Jerome as Speaker despite the change in government that had just taken place. [7]

In 1982, the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure recommended a new Standing Order that set out the steps to be followed in electing a Speaker by secret ballot. [8] The recommendation was not acted upon until 1985, when the Government responded favourably to a re-issue of the recommendation by the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons. [9] In its response, the Government suggested some additions and changes to the proposed rule that were later reflected in the proposed amendments to the Standing Orders tabled and agreed to in June 1985. [10] The Standing Order went into effect in September of that year on a provisional basis and was invoked in 1986 when John Bosley resigned as Speaker and the House elected John Fraser after eleven ballots. [11] The protracted election prompted calls for changes in the process; to that end, the Standing Order was amended in 1987, to exclude from a subsequent ballot candidates receiving five percent or less of the total votes cast. At the same time the Standing Order became permanent. [12] In 1988, when the House authorized the Clerk to re-order and renumber the Standing Orders as a whole, the original Standing Order on the election of a Speaker was divided into the present Standing Orders 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. [13]

At the opening of every Parliament since the Thirty-Fourth, the election of the Speaker was presided over by the “dean of the House”, the Member with the longest unbroken record of service who is neither a Minister nor a holder of any office within the House. [14] While Standing Order 3 is silent as to whether the Member presiding could also be a candidate, in all cases to date, they have removed their names from the list of candidates. The presiding officer sometimes makes a few brief remarks before the election begins. [15]

In the 1990s, Members noted the difficulty faced by those newly elected to the House who are called upon to choose a Speaker with little time or opportunity to become informed about all the candidates. [16] In 2001, the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons recommended that candidates for the Speakership be allowed to briefly address the House before the first ballot was held. This led to the inclusion of Standing Order 3.1. [17] The rule was suspended during the first election after its adoption due to there being only one candidate on the ballot. In addition to dispensing with the speeches, the House also agreed to dispense with the secret ballot election and declare the candidate elected. [18]

Standing Orders 7 and 8
Chair of Committees of the Whole.
At the commencement of every Parliament or whenever there is a vacancy, the Speaker of the House, after consultation with the leaders of each of the officially recognized parties, shall announce to the House the name of a Member he or she considers to be qualified for the position of Chair of Committees of the Whole who, upon his or her election to that post, shall also be Deputy Speaker of the House.
Question put forthwith.
Following the designation of a Member pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order, a motion for his or her election shall be deemed to have been moved and seconded and the question shall be put forthwith without debate or amendment.
Language knowledge.
The Member elected to serve as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole shall be required to possess the full and practical knowledge of the official language which is not that of the Speaker for the time being.
Term of office. Vacancy.
The Member so elected as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole shall continue to act in that capacity until the end of the Parliament for which he or she is elected, and in the case of a vacancy by death, resignation or otherwise, the House shall proceed forthwith to elect a successor.
Ad hoc appointment.
In the absence of the Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole, the Speaker may, in forming a Committee of the Whole, before leaving the Chair, appoint any Member Chair of the Committee.
Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.
At the commencement of every session, or from time to time as necessity may arise, the Speaker of the House, after consultation with the leaders of each of the officially recognized parties, shall announce to the House the name of a Member he or she considers to be qualified for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and also the name of a Member he or she considers to be qualified for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, either of whom shall, upon his or her election to that post, whenever the Chair of Committees of the Whole is absent, be entitled to exercise all the powers vested in the Chair of Committees of the Whole including his or her powers as Deputy Speaker during the Speaker’s unavoidable absence.
Question put forthwith.
Following the designation of a Member pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order, a motion for his or her election shall be deemed to have been moved and seconded and the question shall be put forthwith without debate or amendment.

Commentary — Standing Orders 7 and 8

Committees of the Whole House, although they meet in the House and are comprised of all Members, are not chaired by the Speaker. Instead, the House must “elect” another Member at the beginning of each Parliament, the Chair of Committees of the Whole, to carry out this task. This Chair is also the Deputy Speaker and acts as Speaker in the Speaker’s absence. This added responsibility is outlined in the Parliament of Canada Act, which also describes other Members who can act as Speaker.

It is the Speaker who proposes the name of a Member to be Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole. The Member is required by section (2) of Standing Order 7 to be fluent in the official language which is not that of the current Speaker. [1] A motion to elect the Member is deemed moved and seconded and is put to the House immediately without debate or amendment. The appointment is effective for the life of the Parliament unless a vacancy arises in mid-Parliament, at which time a successor is chosen.

The holder of this office takes the Chair if he or she is present when the House forms itself into a Committee of the Whole. Section (4) allows the Speaker to appoint any Member as Chair if the elected Chair is not present, but the Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair, appointed in accordance with Standing Order 8, typically chair Committees of the Whole in rotation with the elected Chair. The Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair are appointed in the same manner as the Chair, except that their appointments are effective only for the session in which they are chosen. [2] It is rarely necessary for the Speaker to call upon another Member to chair a Committee of the Whole. Indeed, a long-standing practice (see Historical Summary) has seen the task of filling the position of acting Chair go to the Chair of Committees of the Whole while acting for the Speaker, or to one of his or her alternates, rather than to the Speaker.

This practice is paralleled in the House when the Speaker is absent. Section 42 of the Parliament of Canada Act allows the Chair of Committees to act as Deputy Speaker if, in the course of a sitting, the Speaker, for whatever reason, leaves the Chair. If the Chair is absent, the Speaker may call on any other Member to take the Chair, although as is the case with the position of chair in Committees of the Whole, in practice the “acting” Speakership usually falls to the Deputy or Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees, or to another Member selected by whichever of these presiding officers happens to be in the Chair. Section 43 of the Act provides that when, at the start of a sitting, the Speaker’s unavoidable absence is announced to the House by the Clerk, the Chair of Committees takes the Chair, performs the duties and exercises the authority of the Speaker until the next sitting. If at the start of the next sitting the Speaker is still unavoidably absent, the Chair of Committees again assumes the Speaker’s role and may continue to do so from day to day until the Speaker returns. If an adjournment of more than 24 hours arises, the Chair can act as Speaker only for 24 hours from the adjournment. It has happened that the Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees, as alternates to the Chair, have opened a sitting when both the Speaker and Chair were absent (see Historical Summary).

Historical Summary — Standing Orders 7 and 8

Before 1885, the Chair of Committees of the Whole and the deputy or “acting” Speakership were two very separate offices.

It was up to the Speaker to select a Chair of Committees of the Whole, but this was only a temporary appointment made at the suggestion of the government. [3] During this period, many different Members were called upon to fulfill this task. [4] Partly as a result of this lack of continuity, in 1885 the House made the Chair a permanent office, to be held by a Member for the duration of a Parliament. The Member chosen as Chair was to be “elected”, although from the very beginning it was clear that the House would merely be asked to acquiesce in the government’s choice. Usually, the Prime Minister proposed the name of a Member to be Chair, though in some cases the appointment was moved by a leading Minister. [5]

The first Standing Orders governing this new appointment required the “election” to take place at the start of each Parliament, after the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne had been agreed to. Despite this very explicit requirement, in 1887 the Prime Minister waited almost a month after the Address had been agreed to before moving for the appointment of a Chair. [6] A lengthy delay also took place in 1891, but otherwise the rule was closely adhered to. [7] In 1949, however, the Chair was elected before the Address was agreed to when the House waived the usual requirement. [8] This was also the case in 1953. [9] Eventually, in 1955, the rule was amended so that the appointment could regularly be made at an early sitting in a new Parliament, regardless of whether or not the Address had been agreed to. [10]

Meanwhile, when the House was not in Committee of the Whole, it was up to the Speaker, in accordance with section 46 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to “preside at all meetings” of the House. This, for the first few months of the first Parliament, is literally what the Speaker had to do, as no provision of the Constitution allowed another Member to take the Chair in his place. [11] This demanding requirement was made less onerous when Parliament passed an Act late in 1867 which allowed the Speaker to choose any Member to sit in the Chair in the Speaker’s absence during a sitting. [12] Soon after the bill received Royal Assent, the Speaker invoked his new powers for the first time. [13]

In 1885, claiming these arrangements were not serving the House very well, and citing the practice in England as an example to follow, Prime Minister Macdonald proposed to tie the two offices together in a permanent Chair of Committees whose salaried holder could also act as Speaker both during and at the beginning of a sitting when the Speaker was absent. [14] As well, the Speaker would retain his right to call any Member to the Chair temporarily during a sitting and would still be obliged, should the Chair of Committees be absent, to call on another Member to chair any Committee of the Whole. In presenting his proposal, Sir John said he hoped the House would “see that the regularity of its proceedings and the management of Committees of the Whole will be infinitely better conducted with an officer of this rank and position…”. [15] Edward Blake, on behalf of the Liberals, strongly opposed the idea on the grounds that it was plainly aimed, in his opinion, at creating one more salaried post for political patronage. [16] Despite this negative reaction, the Prime Minister pursued his plan, albeit with difficulty.

First, the resolution for a permanent Chair was agreed to only after a lengthy discussion and three amendments. [17] (One of the amendments, which later became a Standing Order in its own right and is now Standing Order 7(2), concerned the language requirement for the position, and was moved by a French-speaking Conservative backbencher from Manitoba. The amendment was itself criticized for being unclear on the question of which languages were referred to, but this misgiving was dispelled by Prime Minister Macdonald, who said that “…as there are only two languages recognized by the Constitutional Act, the French and English, I do not think the question can possibly arise.” [18]) Then, a Member questioned whether the language abilities of any nominee would be subject to review. [19] Subsequently, the House refused to provide by Standing Order that the Chair could act as Speaker in the Speaker’s absence, because this could only be done by a bill. As a result, the proposed Standing Orders respecting the Chair’s role as Speaker were shelved, only to reappear in a bill entitled An Act to provide for the appointment of a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, which was adopted later that session. [20] The end results of the Prime Minister’s initiative were some Standing Orders which provided for a Chair of Committees to continue for a Parliament, and a new statute which provided that this Chair could act as Speaker in the Speaker’s absence.

While the statute, a version of which had existed since 1867 (S.C. 1867-68, c. 2), was readily accepted, some Members continued to feel its complementing Standing Orders were unnecessary, and in 1887 a Member actually moved that they be deleted. [21] The following year, after the Chair had been absent from the Committee of the Whole for some days, a Member complained that allowing another Member to preside in the Chair’s absence was not the proper course to follow as it defeated the purpose of the Act. [22] Unwilling to let the matter rest there, a few days later, when the Chair had returned, the same Member again went on the attack. This time, a Committee of the Whole had been formed with a Member other than the Chair presiding, even though the latter was present in the House and was required by the Standing Order to chair the Committee in the circumstances. A complaint was made and the Chair of Committees took the Chair. However, when the time came to report to the House, the Speaker was absent, so another Member was called upon to make the report to the Chair, who was now acting as the Speaker. That Member did so following past practice, despite claims that the proceeding was irregular. [23] Still, the extent to which the Chair could delegate his powers in this way continued to cause many Members serious misgivings, as neither the Standing Orders nor the statute provided that the Chair could ask any Member to take his place.

The issue was again discussed in 1896, 1899 and 1903 but was never resolved to the House’s satisfaction. [24] Yet if silence signifies acceptance, then after 1903 the controversial habit Chairs had of delegating their powers to other Members became accepted practice. This continued to be so until 1938 when, because the Chair was to be absent for some time, a new Standing Order was proposed to provide for a Deputy Chair of Committees who would have all the powers of the Chair. [25] (After the initial appointment in 1938, the position was left vacant for almost ten years before it was filled again. [26] Subsequent appointments were made as the need arose, until in 1953 the current practice of regular sessional appointments was firmly established. [27]) Nonetheless, the new rule also codified a power which had never before been shared: the power the Chair had to open a sitting should the Speaker be unavoidably absent. The Leader of the Opposition did not think the statute provided for this latter delegated power, but did not object further when the Minister of Justice assured him it was a satisfactory way of providing for the case at hand. [28]

In 1967 a fourth presiding officer, called the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees, was provided for in the Standing Orders, again with the same powers. [29] This time no objections were raised, probably because at no time in this period did a Member other than the Chair of Committees take the Speaker’s Chair in the latter’s unavoidable absence at the start of a sitting.

Indeed, from 1885 onward, Speakers were infrequently absent at the beginning of a sitting. The first instance came on May 2, 1885, the day after the bill which provided for this eventuality was passed. In this case Speaker Kirkpatrick was called away due to an illness in his family. [30] In 1899, Speaker Edgar became seriously ill and had to be replaced at the start of 16 sittings. [31] Other Speakers were generally assiduous in their attendance although Speaker Lemieux often chose to be absent on Mondays, as did Speaker Sauvé. In these and other cases of absence, the Chair of Committees usually took the Chair in place of the Speaker. In 1983, however, the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees as acting Speaker opened a sitting. [32] When later that year the Speaker became ill, the Chair and the Assistant Deputy Chair alternated days in opening sittings. Given the increased demands on their time, since the 1990s, Speakers have increasingly relied on other Chair Occupants to preside in their absence, particularly on Fridays. While it is still the Chair of Committees who most often replaces the absent Speaker, the practice of having the Deputy Chair or the Assistant Deputy Chair open a sitting became more frequent under Speaker Fraser, and was common under Speakers Parent and Milliken. [33] In almost all cases of absence, the Clerk has made the announcement that the Speaker was unavoidably absent. [34]

The positions of Deputy and Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees have, however, never superseded the Speaker’s power to “appoint a Chair to preside”, although in keeping with the hard-won turn-of-the-century practice, such an ad hoc appointment has usually been made by the Chair of Committees or one of his or her Deputies. [35] Similarly, the statute still allows the Speaker to call on any Member to act as Speaker during a sitting, provided the Chair is absent. [36]

The names put forward for the positions of Chair, Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair have met with opposition only on rare occasions. In 1911, the choice of Mr. Blondin, a Quebec nationalist, as Chair, was hotly debated, [37] while in 1918, one Member objected to the appointment of Mr. Boivin, a Quebec Member who had opposed conscription. [38] On only one occasion, however, in 1962, was a motion to appoint a Chair ever brought to a recorded vote. [39] In fact, in most cases the appointment passed with only a few laudatory comments about the nominee’s special capacities for the post. [40]

Until recently, the appointments of the Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair were never controversial, although on one occasion the Member nominated as Deputy Chair by the Prime Minister was taken by surprise and asked for time to think it over. [41] Beginning in 1990, however, the opposition began to use these motions as an opportunity to air certain grievances. That year, a recorded vote was demanded on a motion to appoint the Assistant Deputy Chair when Members of the Bloc Québécois stated they had not been consulted. [42] On three occasions in 1996, the opposition debated motions to appoint the Deputy Chair or Assistant Deputy Chair, arguing that one of these positions should go to an opposition Member. All three motions were eventually adopted on a recorded division. [43] In 2002, the Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition complained that the selection of the Deputy Chair was left only to the Prime Minister, as was the selection of other Chair occupants and chairs of standing committees. After her intervention, the motion was approved on division. [44] In almost all of these cases, Members stressed that they were not objecting to the nominees, but rather to the method by which they were selected.

These objections led to a change in the method of appointing the Chair, Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair. Rather than have the Prime Minister propose the candidates, as had been the practice, it was agreed in October 2004 that the Speaker would put names forward, after consultations with the leaders of all recognized parties. In addition, the motions for appointment would no longer be subject to debate or amendment. This process was used to elect Members to all three positions at the opening of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament. Mere moments after the House adopted a special order instituting the process, the Speaker nominated a Member of the Official Opposition for the position of Chair and Deputy Speaker. [45] The Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair were nominated two days later. [46] The House unanimously agreed to elect the nominees. Shortly thereafter, the House adopted amendments to Standing Orders 7 and 8 to make this appointment process permanent. [47]

The Members appointed to the positions of Chair, Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair have almost always come from the government side of the House, however there have been exceptions. In addition to the above-mentioned case in the Thirty-Eighth Parliament, a Member of the opposition was also appointed Chair in the Thirteenth, Twenty-Ninth and Thirty-First Parliaments. [48] After the protracted debates of 1996, an opposition Member was selected as Deputy Chair in the Thirty-Sixth Parliament, though all presiding officers for the first two sessions of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament were government Members. In the Third Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament, the Assistant Deputy Chair was a Member of the opposition. [49]

Until the extensive amendments of 2004, changes to these Standing Orders had only been of a minor nature. In 1906, the rule which obliged the Speaker to appoint a Member to preside at any Committee of the Whole was relaxed so that it was no longer an obligation. [50] In 1927, the title of Deputy Speaker was for the first time employed in Standing Order 7 (Members had long before begun to refer to the Chair as Deputy Speaker), and in 1968, a reference in Standing Order 7(1) to the British antecedents for the rule was finally dropped. [51]

Order and Decorum

Standing Order 9
Speaker mute in debate. Casting vote.
The Speaker shall not take part in any debate before the House. In case of an equality of voices, the Speaker gives a casting vote, and any reasons stated are entered in the Journals.

Commentary — Standing Order 9

This Standing Order aims at clearly establishing the Speaker’s independence and impartiality. He or she does not participate in debate in the House, and only votes in case of a tie. The latter responsibility is set out in the Constitution Act, 1867. [1] The Chair has generally been guided in this regard by the principle of voting in such a way as to permit further discussion; i.e., by voting to maintain the status quo. As well, the Chair avoids commenting on the merits of the question on which the casting vote is required. [2]

Historical Summary — Standing Order 9

Although the requirement that Speakers remain mute in debate has existed since 1867, it has not been applied when the House met in Committee of the Whole. During the first 60 years after Confederation, there were countless instances of participation by the Speaker in this forum. For example, throughout his term as Speaker, T.W. Anglin (1874-78) participated actively during supply proceedings and when bills were considered in Committee of the Whole. [3]

Subsequent Speakers, while studiously silent when in the Chair, were also active in Committee of the Whole. By 1927, the practice had become rare, and when Mr. Speaker Lemieux spoke in Committee on the Post Office Act, Members objected to his action. [4] After this, Speakers did not intervene in Committee of the Whole except on occasion to defend their estimates. [5] Since 1968, these estimates have been referred to standing committees for study and Speakers, as witnesses, now defend their estimates in this forum. From the beginning, however, Speakers have appeared before, and indeed have sometimes chaired, House committees, usually when matters of procedure and reform of the rules have been considered. [6] At least one Speaker, Gaspard Fauteux (1945-49), even saw fit to bring forward proposals for procedural reform on his own initiative. [7]

Since the position was established in 1885, Deputy Speakers participated actively in debate until the mid-1930s, [8] despite an attempt in 1914 to make the Deputy Speaker subject to the same rules which applied to the Speaker. [9] In recent years, the Deputy Speaker and other presiding officers have generally avoided taking part in debate, but do retain their right to vote when not presiding over the House. In the absence of any rule limiting their participation in debate or voting, the degree of participation has been an individual decision. [10]

The reference in the Standing Order to the casting vote of the Chair, which also dates from 1867, has been invoked several times, both in the House and in Committee of the Whole. In the House, tie votes occurred in 1870, 1889, 1925, 1930, 1963, 2003 and three times in 2005. [11] In Committee of the Whole, the votes were equal in 1904, 1920, 1922 and 1928. [12]

Standing Order 10
Order and decorum. No appeal.
The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum, and shall decide questions of order. In deciding a point of order or practice, the Speaker shall state the Standing Order or other authority applicable to the case. No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House.

Commentary — Standing Order 10

The Speaker, as the arbiter of House proceedings, has a duty to preserve order and decorum in the House and to decide any matters of procedure that may arise. Because he or she is regularly obliged to stem breaches of order and decorum, the precedents for their regulation are generally well understood. As such, the Speaker’s declarations on disorderly or indecorous conduct are typically made quickly, in a matter-of-fact way, before any discussion takes place. [1] However, deciding questions of procedure is not always so straightforward. Often, doubtful cases do not permit a swift ruling, and discussion of the point of order or practice may be allowed before the Speaker comes to a decision (see Standing Order 19).

When a decision on a question of order is reached, however, the Speaker must justify it through a statement in which he or she explains which Standing Order or authority is being applied to the case. Once the Speaker has done this, the matter is no longer open to debate or discussion and the ruling cannot then be appealed to the House.

On rare occasions, some Speakers have chosen to amend or clarify previous rulings. [2]

Historical Summary — Standing Order 10

The preservation of order and decorum has been a duty of the Speaker since 1867, but the task was never as difficult as in the early years of Confederation. Speakers in that time were regularly confronted with rude and disorderly conduct which they were unable to control. The throwing of paper, [3] books, [4] and other missiles, including firecrackers in one case, [5] combined with the noises Members made imitating cats, [6] making music [7] and generally being loud, made for a very riotous assembly. It was often suggested, not without some truth, that the root of the problem of order and decorum lay in the basement of the Parliament Building, just below the Chamber, where a much-frequented public saloon plied “intoxicating liquors” to Members seeking “refreshment” during the lengthy evening debates. [8]

With time, and with the closing of the bar, the disorderliness of the formative years slowly disappeared. The early twentieth century House was a much more austere and calm place, although in 1913, during the debate on the naval bill, the House very nearly got out of control. [9] Subsequent occasions of turbulence were infrequent and usually occurred in connection with the imposition of closure. [10] Throughout the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and the early 1950s, the House was anything but rowdy. [11] Debates were orderly for the most part and Members were attentive to the rules of decorum. Even unparliamentary expressions, which had often been truly objectionable, took on a decidedly tame complexion. [12] It was not until 1956, during the pipeline debate, that the Speaker again had great difficulty preserving order. [13]

The 1960s, with a succession of minority governments, also proved a challenge. When television was introduced to the House in 1977, decorum initially improved, but the subsequent increased use of unparliamentary expressions and displays, together with the inevitable heckling, soon came to make the Speaker’s task more onerous.

Perhaps the worst scene in modern times occurred in 1980 when closure was moved on a motion to establish a committee to study a constitutional resolution. Several Members, angered by the closure motion, stormed the Chair, demanding to be heard. The resulting disorder on the floor of the House led to the entrance, behind the curtains, of members of the protective staff on the orders of the Sergeant-at-Arms. [14] Speakers Jerome, Sauvé, Francis and Bosley all had to contend with scores of language breaches and other violations of order and decorum. [15] The election by secret ballot of Speaker Fraser on September 30, 1986 initially marked a favourable change in the atmosphere in the House; however he soon faced the same challenges as his predecessors regarding decorum. After a number of serious breaches in 1991, the government brought forward a motion expressing concern over the “lack of decorum and civility” in the House. The motion was debated over three sitting days, [16] but did not lead to a marked improvement. In fact, only days after the motion was introduced, a Member was called to the Bar of the House to be reprimanded for grabbing the Mace. [17] Speaker Fraser also appointed a special advisory group of Members to address the broad question of decorum in the House, particularly language and behaviour that is discriminatory. [18] The group recommended that penalties for indecorous behaviour be increased, but no subsequent action was taken. [19] During their tenures, Speakers Parent and Milliken also had to deal with unparliamentary language and breaches of decorum. [20]

The Speaker’s duty to decide questions of order, like that of maintaining order and decorum, has existed since 1867, but its evolution in practice has followed quite an opposite path. Until 1965, it was possible for any Member who disagreed with a Speaker’s decision on a question of order to appeal it immediately to the House; i.e., to move a non-debatable motion on the question of whether or not the House upheld the Speaker’s ruling. In the early years of Confederation, however, this was rarely done. [21] As a result, the Speaker’s decisions on matters of procedure amounted to the final word in most cases and, although Members were sometimes openly critical of a ruling, few formal challenges were made. [22] At the turn of the century, however, Members began asserting their right to an appeal to the House, and many appeals took place between 1907 and 1917. [23] It was not until the 1920s, particularly 1926, that appeals became almost routine. Thereafter, hardly a session passed that did not see at least one appeal. The practice reached a peak in the session of 1956 when eleven appeals were made. Similar numbers of appeals were made in the minority Parliaments of 1962-3 and 1963-5, before appeals were finally abolished in June 1965. [24]

Before 1965, there were several instances where the Speaker was not sustained by the House. The first of these came in 1873 when the House overruled the Speaker on the acceptability of a petition. [25] In 1926, another ruling was rejected, and in 1963 three more suffered the same fate. [26] A fourth ruling in 1963 resulted in a tie, and was thus sustained when the Speaker ruled that his decision should stand “since the decision has not been negatived.” [27]

From the beginning, Speakers have been careful to support their decisions with quotations from the Standing Orders or the authorities, or simply by citing the number of the applicable Standing Order. It has never been the practice to debate Speaker’s rulings on questions of order. [28]

Standing Order 11(1)
Naming of a Member.
The Speaker shall be vested with the authority to maintain order by naming individual Members for disregarding the authority of the Chair and, without resort to motion, ordering their withdrawal for the remainder of that sitting, notwithstanding Standing Order 15.
Removal of Member disregarding Chair’s authority.
In the event of a Member disregarding an order of the Chair made pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, the Speaker shall order the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove the Member.

Commentary — Standing Order 11(1)

Accepted conventions of parliamentary conduct and respect for the Chair are normally sufficient guarantees that order and decorum are maintained during the proceedings of the House. Occasionally, however, a Member refuses to comply with the Chair’s request to bring his or her actions within the bounds of acceptable conduct. In such cases, the disciplinary procedure known as “naming” is relatively simple.

The Speaker typically calls upon a Member who has transgressed established standards of decorum to retract certain words or otherwise to apologize without qualification. Should the Member hesitate or refuse, the Speaker normally repeats the request, often with a warning that persistent disregard will result in the Member’s being named. Such exchanges may continue at the Speaker’s discretion, but once it is clear that the Member will not comply, the Speaker names him or her. At this point, two options are available to the Chair. Under Standing Order 11(1), the Speaker may order the Member to withdraw from the Chamber for the balance of that sitting. Alternatively, pursuant to Standing Order 11(2), the Speaker may simply wait for the House to take any subsequent disciplinary action it may choose. This second course of action has historically involved a motion, usually proposed by the Government House Leader, to suspend the offending Member “from the service of the House” for a specified period of time. Such a motion, if passed, carries a greater penalty, since suspension from the service of the House bars the Member not only from attendance in the Chamber, but also from committees. The specified period of time may thus also exceed the remainder of that day’s sitting.

Should a Member named and ordered to withdraw refuse to comply, the Sergeant-at-Arms will remove the Member.

Historical Summary — Standing Order 11(1)

Until 1927, when the Speaker’s authority to name a Member was first included in the Standing Orders, the British practice of naming was applied in both the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and in the House of Commons after Confederation. Although there were instances of naming before Confederation, [1] from 1867 until 1927 there was only one case, in 1913. Still, in the 46-year interval between Confederation and 1913 and in the years 1914-27, there were times when the Speaker, facing Members unwilling to respect the Chair’s calls to order, might have resorted to naming but did not. [2] In one case the Speaker did take action, although not by naming a Member:

In the session of 1875 Mr. Domville, member for King’s, N.B. made some remarks which appeared to be most insulting to the House as a body. The Speaker called him to order but he persisted in repeating the offensive expressions and the Speaker immediately ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to take him into custody. Mr. Domville apologized, for in his excitement he did not seem to know what he had been saying. On a subsequent day, whilst the doors were closed, Mr. Speaker stated frankly that he believed he had exceeded his power in ordering the hon. member to be taken into custody. [3]

In the 1913 naming, the Chair was more confident of its authority. Speaker Sproule, who had taken the Chair to quell disorder in Committee of the Whole, cited a British rule and named Mr. Clark, the Member for Red Deer, for “disregarding the authority of the Chair and flagrantly violating the rules of the House.” [4] Mr. Clark apologized and the matter did not proceed further.

When the naming sanction was formally provided for in the 1927 Standing Orders, [5] it referred simply to the Speaker’s power to name a Member who engaged in persistent irrelevance or repetition (see Standing Order 11(2)); no reference was made to naming a Member for refusing to retract unparliamentary language or for disregarding the authority of the Chair. Furthermore, the Standing Orders did not specify the procedure to be followed after a Member had been named.

An interpretation of both these points was advanced in the same year by the then Clerk of the House, Arthur Beauchesne, who wrote that a Member’s persistent use of unparliamentary language (in addition to repetition or irrelevance) was sufficient reason for the Speaker to name that Member. [6] As to the procedure to be followed after naming, Beauchesne cited a British Standing Order:

…the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a motion being made,… “That such Member be suspended from the service of the House”. [7]

It was not until 15 years later, in 1942, that the first incident of naming occurred under the amended Standing Orders. In this case, after Speaker Glen had named Mr. Lacombe (apparently following the procedure set out in Beauchesne), the Minister of Finance immediately moved a motion to suspend Mr. Lacombe. The motion carried easily. [8] Subsequent naming incidents occurred in 1944 (twice), 1956, 1961, 1962 (twice) and 1964. [9] Beginning in 1978, after television had been introduced in the Chamber, the frequency of naming increased dramatically. [10]

Possibly even more significant than the rise in the number of namings was the fact that the House appeared increasingly willing to divide on the subsequent motion to suspend the offending Member. This placed in clear relief the potentially vulnerable position in which the Chair could be put whenever a Member was named. Specifically, the then customary motion from a senior government Minister (usually the Government House Leader) to suspend a Member who had been named was not automatic, and since it was votable, could conceivably be defeated. Thus the authority of the Speaker depended in each case of naming on the initial support of the government to move the motion and on the subsequent support of the House to adopt it. [11] On several occasions, the offending Member withdrew from the Chamber after having been named, and the House took no further action. [12] In another instance, the named Member withdrew, but in the absence of a formal motion for suspension, the Leader of the Opposition insisted that there be one so that his party could vote against it. The Prime Minister still refused. The House was left with no choice, however, when the named Member returned to the Chamber and resumed his seat. [13] In yet another instance, although the suspension motion was moved, the House Leader took the opportunity to underline that it need not have been moved at all, [14] while in a second instance, the Speaker stated that if a motion was to be moved, it could not be delayed. [15]

In 1985, as the number of naming incidents continued to increase, the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons addressed the question of “whether the disciplinary powers of the Chair should be clarified and strengthened”. [16] The Committee’s final report recommended “that the Speaker be empowered to order the withdrawal of a member for the remainder of a sitting… [and] that the proceedings consequent upon the naming of a member be set out in the Standing Orders.” [17]

In February 1986, the government tabled proposed amendments to the Standing Orders based largely on the recommendations of the Committee. Where the disciplinary powers of the Chair were concerned, the proposed amendments went beyond the recommendation of the Committee to include measures that would allow the Speaker, on ordering the withdrawal of a Member for the second or any subsequent occasion during a session, to suspend him or her for a period of five days without resort to motion. [18] During debate on the motion to adopt these new provisions, Members expressed strong support for the concept of granting the Speaker authority to order the withdrawal of a Member for one sitting, but were equally hesitant to extend such power further, preferring to leave subsequent punishments in the hands of the House itself. [19] In February 1986, the House agreed to amendments to the proposed changes to the Standing Orders, and they came into effect that same month. [20] Speakers have since used this power to expel Members when the situation warrants, though some Speakers prefer to use other means to ensure compliance with the directives of the Chair. [21]

The rule changes left untouched the Standing Order that has existed since 1927 (now Standing Order 11(2)), but added Standing Order 11(1). The older method of naming, often followed by a division on a motion to suspend, has not been resorted to since October 1985. [22]

Standing Order 11(2)
Irrelevance or repetition.
The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her speech, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, the Chair shall report the Member to the House.

Commentary — Standing Order 11(2)

The freedom of debate enjoyed by all Members of Parliament allows each Member full liberty to state whatever, in his or her opinion, may help the House (or one of its committees) to come to a decision on whatever question is under study. Unfortunately, Members sometimes wander from the question before the House and make comments and declarations which, although pertinent in other circumstances, are irrelevant. Repetition of the same argument is, like irrelevance, also a danger. Both result in House time being wasted in pointless debate and, were it not the Speaker’s duty to intervene to prevent them from happening, might confuse a question and prevent the House from reaching a decision.

In exercising his or her power to maintain the rules against irrelevance and repetition, the Speaker or the Chair of Committees can call a Member to order and, if necessary, can warn that Member that he or she risks being directed to discontinue speaking. Should the Member’s irrelevancies or repetitions continue, the Speaker can carry out his or her warnings, whereupon the Member must sit down, and the Speaker can proceed to recognize another Member or, if no other Member wishes to speak, to put the question. In the event that the Member should disregard the Speaker’s instruction or direction, the Speaker may resort to naming the Member.

If a Member persists in irrelevance and repetition in committee, he or she is reported to the House by the Chair if the committee so directs, the report being equivalent to naming the Member (the Chair of Committees has no power to name a Member; see Standing Order 12).

The scope of the rule against repetition permits the Speaker to exercise considerable discretion. He or she can invoke the rule to prevent Members from repeating themselves, [1] or to curtail prolonged debate by limiting Members’ speeches to points that have not already been made. [2] Speakers have also invoked the rule against repetition to disallow tedious reading of letters even when they are used to support an argument; [3] asking a question during Question Period similar to another already asked that day; [4] and repeating questions of privilege or points of order on the same subject matter. [5]

The Speaker usually invokes the relevance rule by indicating to the Member called to order the proper subject matter of the debate and how the Member’s remarks were irrelevant. The restriction of debate to the question before the House applies especially to bills, as the peculiarities of each stage in the consideration of a bill dictate to the Speaker certain guidelines according to which the rule of relevance is applied. [6] The rule also applies to amendments proposed to a main motion (amendments usually restrict the scope of debate). [7] Nonetheless, Speakers tend to be mindful of the need for some leniency in applying the rule. [8] Speakers have allowed reference to other matters in debate, if they were made in passing and were not the principal theme of the speech. Alternatively, Speakers have sometimes suggested that a matter raised outside the question in a debate would more properly “form by itself a subject of a special substantive motion.” [9]

Historical Summary — Standing Order 11(2)

When the House adopted its rules in 1867, no reference was made to repetition in debate, and the rule of relevance was mentioned only in the context of a general order of debate which enjoined Members not to “speak beside the question in debate.” [10] Beyond advising the Member to speak to the question, the Canadian Speaker depended almost entirely upon the support of the House and the good will of the Members to uphold the rule. [11]

In a revision of the rules in 1910, the Speaker’s power was augmented to the level comparable to that exercised by the British Speaker since 1882. He or she was empowered to direct a Member to discontinue a speech if it was deemed either irrelevant or repetitious after the attention of the House had been called to the matter. [12] In moving the adoption of this rule, Sir Wilfrid Laurier observed that it was “the English rule copied word for word.” [13]

When the rules were revised in 1927, the role of the Speaker was further clarified. A special committee on procedure foresaw that a Member might refuse to accept the direction of the Speaker and provided for that circumstance by giving the Speaker the power to name the recalcitrant Member, or, if in committee, to permit the Chair to report the Member to the House. These changes were accepted by the House without amendment or debate, and have remained unchanged to the present time. [14]

Still, the rules against repetition and irrelevance have frequently been evaded. Repetition, for instance, is not only built into the legislative process in the three separate readings given to bills but, as one Speaker aptly pointed out:

How can you tell if a Member is repeating until you have heard him, and once you have heard him he has completed his repetition and therefore you cannot ask him to swallow his words. [15]

It should be noted, however, that the Standing Order does not so much prohibit repetition (or irrelevance) as it prohibits a Member from persisting once the Chair has cautioned the Member.

In some cases the Speaker has been able to cite the date and page where the same speech had been given previously. In one instance, the Speaker was able to predict that the Member was about to begin paragraph six of his speech and, in another, the Speaker cited five instances in which the same appeal was made. [16] In one particularly humourous incident, a Member stated that he was going to repeat some of the material he had previously used in the same debate. [17] In yet another case, a Member was chided because his remarks were “not much more than a repetition of what has been said by others who preceded him.” [18]

As to the rule of relevance, a similar conundrum exists: “It is not, however, always possible to judge as to the relevancy of a Member’s remarks, until he has made some progress with his argument.” [19] Here again, however, the Standing Order is invoked against a Member who persists after the Speaker has noted the irrelevance. In the past, the Speaker has frequently used his or her authority to enforce the rule. On one occasion the Speaker read the motion before the House and stated that the Member’s remarks were “not pertinent to the question under consideration” as, in this case, criminology had little to do with import duties. [20] At another time, the Speaker pointed out that debate on a motion for the production of papers in connection with steamship service between Montreal and Gaspé “could not properly include the terms of union between Prince Edward Island and the rest of the Dominion.” [21] During yet another debate, the Speaker was obliged to observe that a bill “which has for its object the ratification of certain Orders in Council in reference to the appointment of a director of coal operations” could not “be further widened to take in the Georgian Bay canal.” [22]

Nevertheless, no Member has ever been named for persisting in irrelevance or repetition. Indeed on only two occasions has the Speaker or Chair directed a Member to discontinue a speech, although they have threatened to do so at numerous other times. [23]

In current practice, when the issue of relevance has been raised, the Speaker usually encourages the Member to link their comments to the subject matter of the debate. Such encouragements are usually sufficient to ensure respect for the rule. [24]

Standing Order 12
Decorum in Committee of the Whole.
The Chair shall maintain order in Committees of the Whole, deciding all questions of order subject to an appeal to the Speaker; but disorder in a Committee of the Whole can only be censured by the House, on receiving a report thereof. No debate shall be permitted on any decision.

Commentary — Standing Order 12

This Standing Order allows the Chair of Committees of the Whole to keep order in Committee just as the Speaker does in the House. If Members disagree with a Chair’s ruling on a question of order, they may appeal it to the Speaker, [1] but neither the Chair’s nor the Speaker’s decisions may be debated. In the absence of the Speaker, the Chair of Committees, who is also Deputy Speaker, takes the Chair and decides on the appeal to his or her own ruling in Committee. [2]

If Committee proceedings become disorderly and the Chair’s attempts to restore order fail, he or she must report the disorder to the Speaker, who then submits the report to the House without debate. The House may censure the disorder if it sees fit. [3]

Historical Summary — Standing Order 12

This Standing Order — Rule 76 in 1867 — has had an interesting evolution. In the early years of Confederation, many separate practices emerged with respect to appeals from Chairs’ rulings. In 1871, the Speaker, having been called upon to rule on a point of order raised in Committee, refused to do so and declared that “The Chairman should decide points of order in Committee.” [4] Yet in several later cases, the Committee, including the Chair, was in doubt on some question of procedure and so rose, sought the Speaker’s advice and resumed their deliberations after they had heard the Speaker’s decision. [5] In other cases, Members who were unhappy with rulings rendered by the Chair appealed them to the House. The first of these appeals occurred in 1885 [6] but was allowed only after a lengthy procedural discussion. [7] There were more appeals after this incident, [8] even though the procedure had been sharply criticized:

…it has its grave inconveniences, since the House is called upon suddenly and without debate to decide a question of order which many of its members may not have heard discussed in committee, and the result is, in the majority of cases, a political vote. [9]

Despite this view, Members were soon routinely appealing rulings of the Chair. [10] They continued to do so until 1965 when, together with appeals to the House from Speaker’s rulings, appeals to the House from Chair’s rulings were abolished. [11] Members could now only appeal a Chair’s ruling to the Speaker or, in his or her absence, to the Deputy Speaker (who also happened to be the Chair). Not surprisingly, Members appealed rulings less and less after 1965, so that by the early 1970s the practice had all but disappeared. [12]

Although disorder in Committee of the Whole has occurred regularly, the Chair has rarely had to report it to the Speaker, and the House has even less frequently chosen to censure the disorder. Incidents in 1944, 1956 and 1962 resulted in Members reported by the Committee being named and subsequently suspended by the House. [13] In 1913, grave disorder in Committee prompted the Speaker to take the Chair without hearing a report from the Chair. [14] In yet another instance, disorder ensued when the Chair refused to hear a Member on a point of order. As a result, the entire Official Opposition left the House in protest. [15] As a last resort, Members dissatisfied with the conduct of a Committee Chair have resorted to motions of censure. [16]

Standing Order 13
When motion is contrary to rules and privileges of Parliament.
Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.

Commentary — Standing Order 13

At the same time as the Speaker is the guardian of the rules and privileges of the House, he or she is its servant as well; as such, Members retain ultimate control over their collective actions. In that context, Standing Order 13 requires the Speaker to inform the House whenever a proposed motion runs counter to long-established parliamentary principles, customs (rules) and privileges. Once apprised of the implications of a motion, the House is free, with the full knowledge of the authorities cited by the Speaker, to accept or reject the motion placed before it.

This procedure contrasts with the Speaker’s clearly defined role and unquestioned authority in deciding purely procedural matters such as are referred to in Standing Order 10. There, matters of order, practice and the adherence to the Standing Orders are entirely within the Speaker’s ambit.

Historical Summary — Standing Order 13

No Speaker in Canadian history has ever had recourse to this unchanging Standing Order, [1] although, since its adoption in 1867, Members have occasionally attempted to convince the Chair to invoke it.

In April 1924, the Speaker was chided for not resorting to the Standing Order in the case of a proposed amendment to the Budget. [2] The amendment was out of order in its form and subject-matter so, in the Speaker’s own words, “Using my unquestioned authority in such a case, I conferred with the mover who agreed to make the necessary corrections.” [3] He later added, in reference to Standing Order 13 (then Rule 46): “… the non-observance of that rule does not affect the situation in any way whatever….” [4]

In late 1968, a Member drew the Speaker’s attention to the Standing Order and claimed that the privileges of Parliament would be infringed if debate on proposed rule changes was allowed while the Speaker was in the Chair. The solution, he said, was to discuss the changes in Committee of the Whole. [5] Although it was his “natural inclination” to have the debate in Committee of the Whole, [6] the Speaker did not feel Parliament’s privileges would in any way be diminished if debate were held in the House and he declined, on that basis, to intervene. [7]

The following year, when a controversial motion regarding time allocation rules was proposed, the same Member asked the Speaker to “find that the attempt to change the rules in this way (by government motion) is contrary to the principles of collectivity and consent…” and suggested that the Speaker should advise the House that the motion was contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament. [8] The Speaker rejected the request, saying: “I cannot accept the suggestions put forward by the honourable Member….” [9]

Since then no further attempts have been made to have the Speaker invoke the rule, though Members frequently argue that certain motions violate the rules and privileges of Parliament. [10]

Standing Order 14
Notice of strangers. Question that strangers withdraw. Speaker or Chair decides.
If any Member takes notice that strangers are present, the Speaker or the Chair (as the case may be) may put the question “That strangers be ordered to withdraw”, without permitting any debate or amendment; provided that the Speaker or the Chair may order the withdrawal of strangers.

Commentary — Standing Order 14

A sitting of the House (or of a Committee of the Whole) involves a meeting of more than the Members and those persons who assist or attend to the House. Other participants, such as Senators, diplomats, government officials, journalists and the general public may also be present, usually in the galleries. However, they are there with the permission of the House and are all in the parliamentary sense “strangers”. Rarely are these participants invited to leave while a sitting is under way. Nonetheless, when a Member wishes a secret or restricted meeting of the House (or of a Committee of the Whole), he or she may propose “That strangers be ordered to withdraw”. [1] Such a motion is not debatable or amendable and the Speaker has some discretion in deciding whether or not to allow the motion to be put. If the motion is agreed to, the Speaker must then, with the help of the Sergeant-at-Arms if necessary, ensure that the wishes of the House are respected. [2]

The Speaker may also order the withdrawal of strangers at his or her own discretion. [3] Very often, however, the Sergeant-at-Arms or members of the protective staff have, without an express order from the Speaker to do so, escorted from the gallery any persons behaving improperly (see also Standing Order 158).

Historical Summary — Standing Order 14

This 1867 rule was first applied in 1871, when its more permissive wording allowed any Member to order that the House be cleared of strangers. In March of that year, the reputation of Mr. MacDougall, the Member for North Lanark, was attacked in the Senate by Senator Miller over some remarks Mr. MacDougall had made in the House. Mr. MacDougall vowed to order the galleries cleared the next time Senator Miller appeared there. [4] True to his word, when the Senator appeared in the gallery, on March 27, Mr. MacDougall “called attention to the fact that there were strangers in the gallery, and demanded that they be turned out”, which order was quickly enforced by the Sergeant-at-Arms. [5]

In 1876, the rule which had made the Senator’s ejection possible was substantially amended when the power of individual Members to order the House cleared of strangers was replaced by a power which allowed Members only to move a motion “That Strangers be ordered to withdraw”. This non-debatable, non-amendable motion was then left for the House to decide. [6] Since then, no such motion for the withdrawal of strangers has ever been agreed to.

In 1929 and 1951, attempts were made to have the galleries vacated while the House discussed divorce bills, but the motions were defeated. [7] In 1950, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Drew, wanted the galleries cleared while the House discussed the Defence Appropriation Act, but here again the House did not agree. [8] A most interesting incident in 1968 saw a Member objecting to the presence in the gallery of two gentlemen from the House Leader’s office who were apparently noting the attendance of the Opposition. When the Member asked the Speaker to direct the “two men in dark suits, one with long sideburns” to withdraw, the Speaker wondered “whether the description given by the hon. Member would make it possible for me to put the motion to the House, because I would be called upon to repeat the description.” In the end, the Speaker suggested the two gentlemen would be leaving soon of their own accord, and did not put the question. [9] Another attempt in 1972 to move that strangers withdraw failed because its object was to prevent the entry of the Usher of the Black Rod. [10] In 1990, the Speaker ruled that such a motion could not be moved on a point of order but only by a Member who had the floor on debate. [11]

In 1994, the Standing Order was amended so that the Speaker was no longer required to put the motion that strangers withdraw. If a Member objects to the presence of strangers, the Speaker may put the question to the House or may simply order their withdrawal. [12]

The Speaker has on rare occasions exercised the Chair’s unilateral power to order the withdrawal of strangers. During the 19th century, it was common for distinguished visitors to take seats near the Speaker on the floor of the House. Although usually well-behaved, these guests sometimes improperly became involved in the debates, as did one John A. Macdonell in May 1879 when he was heard to say that the Member speaking (L.S. Huntington) was “a cheat and swindler”. As a result, the Speaker ordered all strangers to withdraw from the floor of the House. [13] In other more recent cases, a disturbance in the gallery prompted the Speaker to order the removal of all strangers. [14]

There have been other instances when strangers have not been allowed in the House or its galleries. The House has, for example, frequently transacted internal business immediately after prayers but before the doors were opened. [15] As well, strangers have been excluded during secret wartime sessions of the House on at least four occasions. [16] In another instance, the younger Pages were excluded during a discussion on divorce bills. [17]

Previous Chapter Next Chapter